Saturday 15 December 2018

Scarlets scouting report: Tadhg Beirne out to spoil old club's party again

 

Scarlets' Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile
Scarlets' Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Everything you need to know about Leinster's opponents before today's Champions Cup final.

How to beat them

Leinster must suffocate Scarlets and starve them of possession. To do so, their pack will need to assert their physicality at set-piece and at the breakdown early on.

Their scrum is the envy of most teams in Europe, and crucially they have the back-up to come off the bench.

Comparing the two sets of replacements, there is no doubt that Leinster hold a major advantage in that regard and, if they are leading come the hour mark, they will be confident that they can call on high-quality players to see them through to the final.

Robbie Henshaw's return helps glue the midfield together and having that Sexton-Henshaw-Ringrose axis not only adds an edge to Leinster's attack, but also solidifies their defence.

How they beat you

Scarlets will be happy for Leinster to dominate possession, as their transition from defence into attack is lethal.

Their speed of thought, coupled with the skill level of each player, regardless of the number on their back, makes them extremely dangerous in broken play.

Being forced to play Rhys Patchell at full-back and Dan Jones at out-half is interesting, but Leinster will be expecting both play-makers to interchange as first receiver.

Hadleigh Parkes is one of the most under-rated players in Europe and he and centre partner Scott Williams will target Henshaw, who is very much short on game time. In Leigh Halfpenny, Scarlets have a reliable goal-kicker who will happily take his points whenever the chance presents itself.

Key players

Ken Owens The heartbeat of Scarlets, the talismanic skipper is the only survivor from the last time the Welsh side reached a European semi-final 11 years ago. Owens, who toured with the Lions last summer, was immense in the Scarlets quarter-final win over La Rochelle.

The 31-year old is outstanding at the breakdown and will need a similarly big display if he is to lead his side to a first European final.

Tadhg Beirne Back in Dublin once again, the all-action lock will be out to prove another point against the club that deemed him surplus to requirements.

A turnover machine, Beirne is a menace at the breakdown and will be asked to spoil Leinster ball as often as possible.

The Munster-bound Kildare native is one of the form players in the tournament and has resurrected his career since moving to Wales. "He has become very important to us," head coach Wayne Pivac said.

"He's a quality player. The way we play the game suits Tadhg. He's just an immense player. We'll be sorry to see him go but hopefully he's got a couple of more big performances left with the boys."

Gareth Davies With so much firepower in the backs, it will be up to the scrum-half to set the tempo.

Davies has electric pace and Leinster will have to be alive to his sniping breaks around the edge of rucks, as well as his tendency to tap quick penalties.

Last meeting

Two PRO14 meetings in the space of three weeks during the Six Nations was hardly ideal timing for anyone.

Given the amount of front-liners that were missing for both teams, much more focus will be put on the Scarlets' semi-final win at the RDS last season.

It's difficult to imagine Leinster being caught cold as much again but, make no mistake about it, Scarlets pose the same, if not an even greater, threat this time around.

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